Wednesday 26 March 2008

Thoughts after Chelsea

Sunday was a depressing day all round and there is no escaping it. However, we are not out of it yet and if Chelsea can play at that same tempo against ManUre, then I reckon they will drop some points. However, our biggest problem is that our form is now terrible - 4 points from 5 games is desperately bad. Unless we get 3 points at Bolton then we are out of it for sure.

Watching the Chelsea game on TV, the strongest impression I got was that we simply can't deal with Chelsea's physical game, and Drogba in particular. I don't know if he raises his game against us, as this is not the first time, but Drogba's scoring record against us is pretty impressive. Not to mention the countless headers and knock-downs that he creates that led to chances for Lampard and Ballack. He is by no means a silky Arsenal-style player, and I wouldn't want him at Arsenal, but I had to admire the fact that he almost completely dominated Toure and Gallas with his physical presence. When Anelka was introduced as an added distraction, our defence was simply all over the place. Drogba also smashes the ball towards goal when he gets a chance. Our boys politely tap it at the keeper most of the time.

A lot of the post match press has focused on Gallas' captaincy and its the usual Daily Mail led crap. But for me, the weak link at the back on Sunday was the mighty Kolo Toure. Now lets be straight - King Kolo is a legend and I love him to bits, but he struggles a bit against a big powerful centre forward who gets a lot of ball in the air. On the ground, Kolo's pace and technique mean he is a match for almost anyone, but in the air its a different matter. His missed chance from a corner in the first half is also perhaps telling - 6 yards out with the keeper to beat, Kolo's header was half hearted rather than thunderous.

Is Big Phil up to the job instead? Well maybe. On the positive side, I firmly believe that Phil and Gallas is our strongest pairing at centre back. On the negative side, Phil's form against Drogba is also pretty poor (Carling Cup final last year springs to mind). However, Phil is probably the only centre back we have who would have relished the challenge of splitting skulls with Drogba for every header. Instead, Drogba was virtually unopposed for most of the second half on Sunday.

Its been commented in previous seasons that Arsene's substitutions can be suspect. For me Sunday was a return to that past - with Sagna injured I didn't see the logic of bringing on Diaby. Instead, had Big Phil been installed alongside Gallas, Kolo could have switched to right back. That would have been a pretty powerful back line that may just have weathered the storm. Moving Eboue to right back just made us defensively weaker. I suppose that Arsene was gambling on winning the game, but that's hindsight for you.

Lastly, and I don't have a solution yet, our midfield remains lightweight. They are so much better at the physical stuff this year, but the four who started on Sunday - Cesc, Flam, Hleb and Eboue - weighed about 5 stone between them compared to the muscle of Lampard, Ballack and Essien. Lampard alone weighs more than our entire midfield. Even Joe Cole looked strong and stocky compared to our lads. Plus Makele maybe small, but he is nails defensively. When we were 1-0 up we simply didn't have the strength to defend deep against that power. The inclusion of Rosicky (assuming he ever leaves his sick-bed) does not solve the problem at all, so its hard to say who should be left out, or who should be brought in. The obvious candidate is Gilberto, but his season has been poor. He is also not a long term solution.

I am not saying for one minute that Arsene needs to change his philosophy and bring in some thugs, but on the day it was Chelsea's brawn that won them 3 points, not their technique, and that's been a long standing problem for us.

I just hope that Bolton don't do the same to us. Otherwise its rain-coat and bitterness time......


Obsinho said...

Depressed after 4 points from 15, and seeing again that Wenger, despite his many talents, is just too stubborn to actually win anything at the moment. Throwing away two cups, refusing to strengthen the squad in the summer or January (seems madness now when you lose Eduardo, Rosicky and Van Persie for together at least ¾ of a season) and playing Eboue for a whole season are big and very bad (retrospectively) decisions.

Thing is, you’re crazy to want him to be sacked, but frankly unless he spends £50m on 4-5 solid (don’t have to be Torres-money “world-class” tabloid superheros, another 5 Sagna/Eduardo’s would do nicely) players this summer then I know/fear next year will be the same.

1979gooner said...

I see your point Mr Ted.

I think there is a strong case that Big Phil should have played, he had been in very good form.

In our defence, Drogba is a beats and is virtually unplayable on form.

I agreed with Hansen's comments on MOTD regarding Drogba and where we f8cked up.

You cannot expect to beat him in the air, it is the knock down and the second ball that is important, so effectively one should not get too concerned and put oneself out as Gallas did for the first goal in trying to win the first ball, one should concentrate on the second ball, that's where we went wrong.

Even then the first goal was well offside and we looked pretty solid until then.

I do get the feeling that we have been rather unfortunate with some big decisions in the last month.

Birmingham - both goals from poor decisions.

Boro - good Ade goal disallowed and offside Aliadiere goal allowed.

Chelsea - offside goal given.

A few other things have done for us in my opinion:

Rosicky - sick note, great form Jan but can we afford to keep someone who never stays fit?

Eduardo injury - was on fire at the time, it really affected us.

RVP - out for so many months, was on fire before his injury too.

The lack of beef you mention.

The lack of goalscoring wide players - we could do with a strong powerful quick goalscoring winger like Ronaldo ( without the histrionics of course ).

I don't the left flank of midfield has been more of a problem that the right. Eboue needs to provide more but he does give us pace and genuine width. Hleb has flattered to decieve far too frequently, is his time up one wonders?

It's natural to be depressed after games like this, but if we can turn things around there is plenty that could still be salvaged from a season that many thought may see us finish outside the top four.

Our young players will again be a season older and wiser, while there are a few decent jems in reserve, including one Mr Vela.

Ted said...

Its a tough call on Hleb, but I think you're right. On his day, his dribbling will terrorise opponents, but for the second season running, he has almost completely disappeared and now makes very little impact on games. Unless he improves dramatically in the last few games of the season then he will get my vote as the player who should be dropped from the midfield.

It will be a big ask for Carlos Vela to come in on the left side next season and impress straight away. It will also be make or break for Rosicky next year.

I was impressed by Frank Riberry again last night. Shame we missed out on him.